Saturday, August 01, 2009

Bob Stein on the Future of Reading

In advance of the Melbourne Writers festival later this month where he is scheduled to speak, Bob Stein offers a perspective on the future of authorship and reading in The Age:

Traditionally, authors have made a commitment to engage with a subject matter on behalf of future readers, with whom they would have no particular contact. In the new paradigm, I think, an author's commitment will be to engage with readers in the context of a subject matter.

Essentially, authors are about to learn what musicians have grasped during the past 10 years - that they get paid to show up. For musicians, this means live performances account for an increasingly significant percentage of their income in contrast to ever-shrinking royalties from sales. With books, as we redefine content to include the conversation that grows up around the text, the author will increasingly be expected to be part of that ongoing conversation and, of course, expect to be paid for that effort.

For their part, readers will see the experience of reading expand to include a range of behaviours, all situated firmly within a social context. To illustrate, here's a mother in London describing her 10-year-old boy's reading behaviour: "He'll be reading a (printed) book. He'll put the book down and go to the book's website. Then he'll check what other readers are writing in the forums, and maybe leave a message himself, then return to the book. He'll put the book down again and Google a query that's occurred to him."

1 comment:

Jason B. said...

I think it's a worthwhile distinction to be made that musicians have not so much seen performance become a larger proportion of their income, but all of their income shrink becuase royalties have generally left the building.

On a similair note, if writers are to become performers, great real-time communicators, and publishers are now producers, here's a thought to send a chill down the spine of every member of that generally awkward and reclusive species known as 'writer': these producer - publishers will undoubtedly want 8x10 glossies to ensure the multimedia marketability of those they contract. You've got to look the part. When's the screen test?